The ongoing spin wars over “the memo” (which has taken on near mythical status at this point) continue to heat up while we wait for a decision from the White House on whether or not the public should get to see it. Just yesterday John wrote about the FBI’s complaints, citing serious “material omissions” in the document. But now, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee has brought forward yet another charge. The memo that Trump has isn’t the same one they all reviewed previously and voted to declassify. (NBC News)
The House Intelligence Committee sent the White House a different version of a classified memo about the Trump-Russia investigation from the one that committee Republicans voted to release to the public, and it should be withdrawn immediately, the committee’s top Democrat said Wednesday night…
Schiff described the differences in general as “substantive” and “material” alterations that committee members “were never apprised of, never had the opportunity to review, and never approved.” That means “there is no longer a valid basis for the White House to review the altered document,” he wrote.
Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, confirmed that the memo had been edited, but he told NBC News that the changes were only “grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves,” referring to committee Democrats.
As with almost everything else related to memomania, we are left largely in the dark here, relying on varying levels of competing outrage from both parties to evaluate something that only a handful of people have yet seen. The silver lining in this new twist is that it should be fairly easily resolved, assuming the President goes through with his plans to allow it to be released.
There are really only two possible scenarios here and they’re the ones being put forward by Nunes and Schiff. If, as Schiff contends, there have been substantial changes which add new classified material to the document then Trump should be made aware of that and send it back to the Intelligence Committee for a second pass. (The removal of some classified material shouldn’t affect the process at all, at least in theory.) How will we know? If the “new” memo 2.0 is authorized for release, the Committee can simply ask Trump to release the original as well. If there were sensitive portions removed, those could be redacted.
But if the changes are as Nunes described them – basically fixing some typos and taking out portions which the Democrats and the FBI didn’t want to be included anyway – then Schiff would be exposed as having desperately tried to postpone the inevitable by arguing over a technicality.
Which scenario is more likely? If Nunes were really trying to pull a fast one it would be incredibly dumb since the revisions will be exposed sooner or later. (And if the details work to the Democrats’ favor you can bet the altered sections will wind up in the hands of the New York Times and the Washington Post in short order, assuming they don’t have them already.) Schiff’s claim also seems rather perilous in terms of exposure, but it could carry a bit more weight if he’s referring to the same objections which were raised by the FBI this week.
So what are the “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy?” (That was from the FBI statement.) At the low end of the scale of possibilities, it might be something as simple as saying that they did rely on the Steele dossier, but didn’t include their explanation for doing so. But at the opposite end of the spectrum, Schiff and the FBI might be implying that there was other, more reliable information in addition to the Steele dossier which prompted them to move forward with the FISA requests, but it’s too sensitive to be included in the release. That would turn the entire scenario that the GOP is pitching on its head.
We may know by this afternoon. There are rumors running around the Beltway this morning that Trump has already made up his mind and will Release the
Kraken Memo today. At that point, buckle your safety belts and return your seat-back trays to their full, upright positions. We’ll be off to the races.